#TranslateThis! Recommended books from Ukraine

Today we welcome two translators, Hanna Leliv and Anna Walden, who share their recommendations of Ukrainian books: ones already in translation and ones that ought to be translated! Publishers, your attention please …

World Kid Lit: Firstly, what is your favourite Ukrainian children’s book that has been translated into English?

Stars and Poppy Seeds, by Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv, translated from Ukrainian by Oksana Lushchevka, Tate Publishing
Stars and Poppy Seeds

Hanna Leliv: I love Stars and Poppy Seeds, a beautifully illustrated picture book by husband and wife team Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv. The book was translated by Oksana Lushchevska and published by Tate in 2019. It’s a charming story of a little girl’s dream—to count all the stars in the sky. Romana and Andriy produced a stunning combination of art, geometry, and astronomy. My daughter enjoyed this book in Ukrainian, and I kept marveling at the elaborate designs while reading this story to her at bedtime. 

Сонечко/The Ladybug (bilingual edition)
Сонечко/The Ladybug (bilingual edition)

Anna Walden: Our favourite is Dzvinka Torokhtushko’s Сонечко/The Ladybug. It’s an excellent translation of the book. When children have shared the book with friends at school, everyone loved the story and the illustrations. Another favourite is written by Dzvinka Torokhtushko as well: The Miracle in the Lyceum Lane. The events are set in my hometown in Ukraine, so it is incredibly special to me.

WKL: Any tips for Ukrainian children’s books recently published but not yet translated into English?

HL: I would shamelessly promote myself here, or, rather, a wonderful book I’ve been working on for a while now. It’s Cappy and the Whale (Шапочка і кит), an illustrated chapter book by Kateryna Babkina, published by the Old Lion Publishing House back in 2015.

Image of Ukrainian book:  Шапочка і кит (Cappy and the Whale), by Kateryna Babkina and Julia Pilipchatina, Old Lion/Stary Lev, 2015.
Шапочка і кит (Cappy and the Whale). Translation available from Hanna Leliv

It’s a story about an 8-year-old boy, Cappy, who’s fighting leukemia. He got his nickname when he lost his hair after chemo and decided to wear a blue knitted cap all the time. Cappy can’t do a lot of fun things, like eat candy or play around with dogs, but he doesn’t despair. One day he spots a mysterious whale hovering over the park behind his bedroom window. This smart, cheeky whale becomes his friend, and the story rolls on, narrated from Cappy’s perspective.

I love how the author Kateryna delicately handles the complicated issues of illness, anxiety, and living with divorced parents in a manner full of optimism, sincerity, and kind humor.

I’d say it’s a book full of love and life, and I absolutely enjoy translating it. Oh, and I should also mention beautiful illustrations by Julia Pilipchatina that help readers dive right into the story.

Хто росте у парку (Who Grows in the Park?) by Katerina Mikhalitsina, Stary Lev, 2016
Хто росте у парку (Who Grows in the Park?)

AW: I would include Sashko Dermanskii as he has a great sense of humour, and readers can enjoy his fun trilogy about a Fab Monster and Mary.

Oksana Bula is an incredible author-illustrator, as well as a glass artist. She has illustrated many books including «Хто росте у парку» (Who Grows in the Park?) by Katerina Mikhalitsina, which was featured in the 2016 edition of the prestigious White Ravens list.

WKL: Can you recommend a Ukrainian children’s book publisher to look out for? What kind of books do they publish?

HL: There’s a fair number of Ukrainian kid lit publishers already present in the international book market—and with prestigious prizes, like Bologna Ragazzi Award, under their belts. The Old Lion Publishing House (Stary Lev) is probably the most prominent one (foreign rights catalogue here).

An excerpt from the rights catalogue of My Bookshelf Publishing House. He and I: Everything About Boys Without Secrets, by Yulia Smal and Anna Olia.
An excerpt from the rights catalogue of My Bookshelf Publishing House. He and I: Everything About Boys Without Secrets, by Yulia Smal and Anna Olia.

I would also like to mention here My Bookshelf Publishing House, one of my favorite indie presses based in Kyiv. Their portfolio includes both translations and books originally written in Ukrainian. One of their latest bestsellers is He and I: Everything About Boys Without Secrets, creative non-fiction about private parts and body safety for children aged 6+ (with amazing illustrations). You can view their rights catalogue here.

I highly recommend checking out Bratske Publishers, too (in Ukrainian: видавництво Братське).

AW: Ranok is a leading Ukrainian publishing house specializing in children’s, education, art, and popular science literature (in Ukrainian: Видавництво Ранок). Their books have been translated into Polish, English, Hungarian, Slovak, Georgian, Lithuanian, Chinese, Russian, Moldavian, Estonian, Vietnamese, Bulgarian, Romanian, and Kazakh. Ranok is proud to be an environmentally friendly company, and their books are published on recycled materials. You can view Ranok’s rights catalogue here.

Image from the website of
A-BA-BA-HA-LA-MA-HA publishing house

Factor Publishing in Kharkov, Ukraine, publishes books for children of all ages, as well as adult fiction and nonfiction. They have wonderfully illustrated stories for young children and teenagers. The press also publishes newspapers, journals, e-books, and books in Ukrainian, Russian, Greek, German, and Bulgarian.

A-BA-BA-HA-LA-MA-HA is one of the most esteemed producers of children’s literature in Central and Eastern Europe and the first privately owned children’s publishing house to be established in an independent Ukraine. It was founded by the poet Ivan Malkovych in 1992. The playful name of the house comes from a story by the classic 19th century Ukrainian writer Ivan Franko, from the way the schoolboy Hritz recited his ABC’s with the baby sounds “A-BA-BA-HA-LA-MA-HA”.

Thank you Anna and Hanna for your recommendations!


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If you speak or read Ukrainian … what are your favourite books from Ukraine, whether in English, Ukrainian or another language? Please share your tips with hashtag #WorldKidLitMonth!

And if any publishers are reading who are interested to see more recommendations of untranslated children’s and YA books that ought to be translated … see the #TranslateThis! section on this blog.


Hanna Leliv

Hanna Leliv is a freelance literary translator based in Lviv, Ukraine. In 2017–2018, she was a Fulbright scholar at the Iowa Translation Workshop. Among her translations into Ukrainian are texts by Kazuo Ishiguro, Ernest Hemingway, and Stephen Hawking. Her translations of contemporary Ukrainian literature into English have appeared in AsymptoteWashington Square ReviewThe Adirondack Review, The Puritan, and Apofenie.

Profile photo of Anna Walden
Anna Walden

Anna Walden is a translator, interpreter, and teacher, with seven years of experience working for various companies, covering English, Russian, and Ukrainian languages. Anna specialises in medical interpreting as well as working with police, immigration and social services. Last year Anna worked on a book with another translator; the work consisted of linguistic consultation and creative translation. In her free time, Anna likes to hike, paint and travel as much as she possibly can with her daughter, Milana.